‘The Shapely Balloon,’ and other odd-fitting shapes

Our map of the UK still hangs on the Schrank in my mom’s dining area crooked and blocky, like some kid at the high school dance who’s just going to keep sitting there on the sides all night, unnoticed.

I really wasn’t aware of the migrant crisis in the sense those are who watch the news, and it’s ironic as we’re in a kind of bubble here in the south of Germany in this medieval town where you can walk to everything, there’s no need for a car even, it feels like nothing could be wrong anywhere.

There are the remains of the old town wall still, which I try to visit each night at dusk to admire the light, the sometimes gathering clouds. I used to walk to the wall before we were ending a visit here as a kind of goodbye, to snap pictures when the street lamps came on, to take what I could — now, we’re already halfway through the first act in a three act play, leaving Germany for the UK in about six weeks.

DSC_0060Our English friend Alex visited for a few days with his son, Nathan. Though his mom is Romanian and his dad Irish, Alex is full-fledged English, spent most of his time in London, 10 years in Seattle, and this was his first visit to Germany. He thinks most who vacation from the UK visit France, Spain, Italy — less so to Germany.

He explained his mom’s roots in the UK, how “everyone got put back to where they came from” more or less, after the war — and because many areas are depopulating now, he believes Europe relies on immigrants to keep the populations up; immigrants bring families, have children, start businesses, and stay.

But ironic for us, as we thought we could migrate to Germany for a year and now it’s become one of the more desired areas for refugees fleeing truly horrifying places, not to be compared to the Seattle suburbs, no matter what my degree of existential angst.

The depopulation is such a concern for places like Bulgaria, Alex and his partner were able to buy two houses with large plots of land there for less than $20,000 USD combined — and if one were to rent their property in the UK it’s possible to live there, amid others who’ve left the rat race, and not really have to work. At least this is how I understood it late night, after a fair amount of drinking, and a thick cold coming on.

We went to see my mom’s doctor in town, and I prepared some phrases in German to describe my condition. She said they don’t really prescribe antibiotics here; instead they have a kind of ‘buck up’ attitude, and homeopathic remedies are more widely used than in the States. As I sat waiting, I worried if I was sick enough to be there.

But I lifted my shirt for the doctor, mustered a good cough, described a sound in my lungs, and the fact I didn’t want it to go deeper. We went over the European packet of health insurance I’d purchased in the States, all of it in English, roughly 30 pages of text, and the doctor sort of shook his head and said he’d just send the Rechnung to my mom.

He prescribed an antibiotic after all, and cough drops that come in a small amber bottle like what you might find in a head shop, Ylang Ylang oil or Patchouli. Shake 20 drops in your mouth before bed, might make you feel drowsy.

Topo of the UK, Wiki Commons

Topo of the UK, Wiki Commons

On a large map you can see how Ireland and England really were connected at one time like jigsaw pieces, leaving the Isle of Man in the middle, and Dawn’s got Post-it notes on our planned stays in Aberdeen, Inverness, the Orkney Islands, Oban, Edinburgh, Stranraer, Belfast, Dublin, Galway, Cork — then into England to visit Alex, outside of Manchester, into Wales, and ending our time in London for about two weeks.

We’ve been using TripAdvisor to book our stays, and Dawn filters the results by customer reviews, then sorts by price. I’m most looking forward to the starkness of the Scottish landscapes, and what I imagine will inspire my writing and leave some impression on the kids that’s mysterious, and likely damp.

There’s an element of planning that’s fun, but it’s the spaces in between, the romance of spontaneity and the unknown, I’m most drawn toward. And like any good dream, it has the risk of turning frightful around any corner, which makes it worth dreaming for me.

Alex sent me a note thanking us for the visit, and included this odd audio clip from a Scottish poet, Ivor Cutler. Enjoy.

And this marks my 600th post on WP! Thanks for visiting.


Categories: travel

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15 replies

  1. it’s always the turning of the corner, not knowing what to expect, that is the most fun! feel better –


  2. Scotland? Beautiful sheep dotted landscapes, but beware of midges. They’re everywhere where the weather is bearable.


  3. 600! Bravo, my friend


  4. “no matter what my degree of existentialist angst.” This made me chuckle loudly at my desk. More of a chortle, really, A knowing guffaw. A curlicue of delight. It funny.
    Happy 600. Don’t get pneumonia, or as they call in German, “Zeichenphlegmencoughenzover.”


    • Hey thank you – you know I’ll do anything for a chortle, a guffaw, a curlicue. Your German for pneumonia is not far from the truth. Miss you, glad we’re still in touch. Looking forward to you turning 50, that’s one of us.


  5. Get lots of sleep, drink hot liquids and take your medicine. Feel better soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. These posts are fantastic but look at the rich material you have to work with. Stranger in a Strange Land kind of stuff. I might not always be able to comment but they’re appreciated, just the same.

    The pharmaceutical industry would be aghast at how illnesses are addresses over there. How can you make any kind of profit that way?

    Your blog doesn’t look a day over 599.


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